Musings

Intellectual Property Is Not Property

I have been thinking about this subject for a long time. I now try to organize my scribbled notes into something a bit more organized.

In 2014 the newest U2 album descended from the cloud, unannounced, on to nearly every apple device on the planet. The reason seems simple enough; shrewd apple marketing, which hoped to keep apple users locked into apple products and maybe bring others over from elsewhere. The reason is fair enough, although with so much negative coverage it may have backfired slightly. But the negativity came in at a very strange angle (http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/13/has-rocknroll-sold-out-u2-apple-stunt). The attacks have mainly originated from the music industry who see this as both a competition to their own corporate structure and to the inherent value of downloadable music itself. It now appears that U2 downloads are worthless in their assessment. I actually agree with them, but I want to universalize their argument a bit more. [I didn’t really enjoy that new album, but this has nothing to do with my opinions from hereon in.]

Marxism is old idea now, there are specific parts which remain popular and there are ideas that are heavily disputed, particularly by economists. However there is one thing that will always remain, and that is Marx’s method of investigation. Marx did not criticise capitalism from outside, he aimed to critique capitalism from within. Only by embracing everything about the system could he find problems and inconsistencies that he determined would undermine the system as a whole. This procedure of inquiry is valuable and could be used for this issue of music value assessment and copyright. So let’s start by not judging the current system but by analysing it form within.

In the artistic fields we have individuals who produce something, a musician for instance uses time from his/her days to compose a song and records the final version onto a single CD. This CD has acquired value from the time and energy expended by the human body. The musician then sells this CD (which is a material embodiment of his/her labour) to a record company for $1M. The record company is now in debt of that money. To recover this money the company makes many copies of the original CD and sells them to consumers. Now, in paying for the copying and the distribution of the CD the company has to make more than $1M to recover the costs, it will also charge more so as to make a profit for the capitalists. But where is this extra value coming from? Surely there is an exact $-amount that the CD contains within it. The ‘labour value’ held within the physical CD is being diluted with every copy made, but the price that is being charged to the consumer is much more than this. I think this is what is referred to as ‘surplus value’ in Marxist terms. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surplus_value#Theory ).

 

There is always ambiguity of where surplus value comes from. I argue that in the case of artistic endeavors the value comes from the collective recognition from (or reflection of) society. A terrible song made of random notes will not be popular (and will not sell) however a song which touches the hearts and minds of the society is rewarded with success (and money). Is the value of the artist’s expression in the form of e.g. a musical song not then partly a possession of the people? The surplus value can only be, in my opinion, from the reflective interplay between an artist and a collection of people i.e. society.

 

For this reason, I would actually go further and say that, an artist is not the sole owner of his work, for he/she could not have produced it without a society to reflect against.

So do I have a problem with apple paying U2 for an album then distributing it freely? Not really, it’s exactly what it’s worth in my view.

Nanjing with Borges

A specific dream from my childhood still returns to haunt me from time to time, although never with the intensity of that first encounter. I believe it is right to call it an encounter because I’m sure, on that day, I met something real, either physically or conceptually.

I was half asleep on a sofa in my grandparents house in Alexandria, Scotland. Tessa, our large black Doberman dog could have been laying next to me. I cannot remember for sure but it wouldn’t have been uncommon.

Whatever I was dreaming about, if I was at all, gradually faded revealing another layer of experience. It is in this realm where I became aware of the phenomena that has been with me to this day. Strangely, only now, as I ride on the Nanjing subway some 30 years later, has the significance of that experience entered my conscience awareness. And perhaps I owe a nod to Borges, whose words may have helped to decrypt those old fragmented memories.

The object felt heavy and overbearing, too big for my current physical scale. I wanted to inspect it, but when I looked around the vast, empty horizon I was forced to seek on smaller and smaller scales. There, looking into my hands while curled up on the sofa, I believe I found it. Not on my hand or between the fingers but within one of the the tiniest of lines amung the uncountable faint lines that crisscross the skin. Not that I could give any detailed description of its visual characteristics, since it seemed surrounded by an impenetrable haze.

How could this thing, smaller that my visual perception would allow, at the same time loom over me with such mighty weight and almost infinite extension?

It was heavier and larger than I dared to imagine but as small and light that it could be lost in my own hands. It would be wrong to begin trying to identify it by listing those things that are lighter than it and those that are heavier than it, to thus arrive at some constrained possibilities. It was not heavy in relation to some things and lighter in relations to others. It was both lighter and heavier in relation to itself.

The dream was not pleasant. There was a nightmarish aspect that lay in my endless oscillation between the two states of experiencing the object as either large and massive or small and light. Yet I am sure that it was not the one who was changing.

I woke in a cold sweat.

Many years later I learned that all matter is composed of infitesimal vibrating loops of energy. This may or may not be related.

Sardinia 2017

I’m just back from vacationing in Sardinia, so I thought I’d update from previous post.
We didn’t get as much done as I had planned, but I planned way to much anyway.

 

Day 1:
Pirri, Mariuccia Bar
Poetto local beach
Stroll around Cagliari city centre

Day 2:
Villamsimus, Cala Giunco beach
Cagliari, night drink at Bastione di Saint Remy

Day 3:
Local Market with Joe
Wine tasting at Cantina Trexenta near Senorbi
Nuraghe at Orroli

Day 4:
Nice lunch at il Gato in Cagliari
Jaemin (Jaewon’s brother) and Yunju (his partner) arrive
we walk around Cagliari; Cripta di S. Restituta, Roman Amphitheatre

Day 5:
Boat tour around Pan di Zucchero, beach at Masua, and Porto Flavia
Dinner in Cagliari at Ristorante Antica

Day 6:
Wine tasting at Audarya and cheese tour and tasting at Argiolas.
Pick up Drew (my younger brother) from airport
My Dad makes a surprise visit!
We all head to the Poetto for an evening swim

Day 7:
Rita (Joe’s sister, my some kind of aunt) visits in the morning
We go to San Benedetto fish market in Cagliari
Go to Barumini Nagurhi
then visit the horses at Giara di Gesturi
Yunju cooks paella!

Day 8:
We go to Cala Goloritze beach, 3 hour driving and 1.5 hour hiking in mountain, but worth it!

 

 

State Violence

As I was writing yesterday about the Gwangju uprising and the movie “A Taxi Driver” I got to thinking more about state violence. Although May 18th 1980 was only 37 years ago, Korea is a fast moving democracy and we have come a long way since then…. or have we? I am reminded of a thesis I read a few years ago and it still shocks me… “Police, Paramilitaries, Nationalists and Gangsters: The Processes of State Building in Korea” By Jonson Nathaniel Porteux (original link, my local copy). In the process of researching this topic the author embedded himself within  various korean social structures, even including the mob (usually referred to as 조폭 “jopok” or 건달 “geondal” in korean).

He found that gangsters are still used by local authorities and private businesses to handle disputes through physical violence.  Here is the opening to his thesis…

At 2pm on what seemed to be a normal day in Insadong, a historic tourist destination located in central Seoul, South Korea (henceforth, Korea), what seemed to be hundreds of police clad in riot gear suddenly appeared and quickly lined up into formation on either side of the street and in the back alley ways of the district. Ambulances were additionally positioned on opposite ends of the roughly 700 meter long road. 76 Street vendors as well were stationed next to their pushcarts, wearing red protest bands a cross their foreheads. Not long after the police were in position, did a group of 150 young thugs, both male and female, wearing yellow vests, start marching down the street, going from one vendor stall to the next, destroying them and beating any vendor who challenged them. Guiding the yellow clad thugs were a few intimidating men who seemed to be in their early to mid 40s, screaming their well followed orders. The process took about one hour the thugs having moved from one end of the street to the other and back again. The street vendors were selling their wares illegally and were labeled as public nuisances – they didn’t pay taxes to the state – they didn’t pay rent –  and they often sold the same goods as the businesses in the area which had to pay highly to be there. The violence committed against the street vendors however, was also a criminal act, and the services of the thugs were directly and formally contracted out by the Jongno-gu 2 district office. This event did not occur in pre-1987 authoritarian Korea. It occurred on May 24th, 2011 in a country which is often characterized and hailed as being a prosperous and consolidated democracy.
The events which transpired on May 24th are not isolated to either that day or to street vendors alone. Rather, the practice as described above is part of a larger phenomenon in which the state either directly contracts the services of private security firms, or tolerates their use in limited, highly controlled areas. Questions raised in my mind that day are the questions that motivate this study. If the vendors are breaking the law, why can’t the police simply arrest or otherwise sanction them in to compliance? How come Korean society, a society that has a well-documented history of being both contentiousness and in favor of civilian controlled rule, not be able, or more accurately, willing, to hold its elected leaders and the police accountable for allowing such acts to occur? Why would the state collaborate with groups to carry out criminal violence against its own citizens –  in broad daylight and in a democracy no less? This phenomenon directly contradicts the notion of the legitimacy of the state on the one hand, and on the other, the illegitimacy of the groups which engage in criminal violence. This dissertation is an attempt to understand this complex phenomenon.
What [….] are the conditions under which state actors in high capacity, democratic states would collude with private actors in carrying out extra legal violence within their own territorial boundaries, and against their own citizens whom they have been charged with protecting?!